Phish began their 1997 touring in Europe in support of Billy Breathes, their seventh album on Elektra records, and also to support the European compilation CD entitled Stash. This was their second visit to Europe in under a year and their first as a headline act. Unlike the amphitheatres and arenas to which the band had grown accustomed in North America, the European tour was made up mostly of club venues. Fish decided to forego his usual dress and instead to don a snazzy Italian tailored ensemble, which came along with an onstage coat rack to hold the suit jacket.
The shows in Europe were preceded by some practice at home in Vermont as well as a February 3rd telephone interview with Trey and Fish on the nationally syndicated radio show “Rockline”. A few more days of rehearsal followed and then the entourage flew to Europe, arriving in London on February 11th. On the 12th, the band made a brief appearance in London’s Virgin Radio studios and then met up with the crew for technical rehearsal at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The tour commenced with a show at this London club the following night wherein the band unveiled new songs Walfredo (on which Trey plays piano, Mike guitar, Page drums and Fish bass), Love Me (a Lieber and Stoller song sung by Mike), My Soul (by Clifton Chenier), and When the Circus Comes to Town (a Los Lobos song). Another new original debuted that night, Rock A William, which also featured the band members switching instruments, this time with Trey on drums, Mike on piano and Page on bass. Given the profusion of new material and these fresh takes on instrumentation, it was clear from the outset that this tour would be unique.
The next show took place on Valentine’s Day at Le Botanique in Brussels, Belgium. After a day off following the Brussels show, the tour resumed in Germany on February 16 at Wartesaal in Cologne (Koln). The show that night was recorded on videotape with interviews for WDR Rockpalast, a German live music television program. Phish opened the show with their debut performance of Del McCoury’s Beauty of My Dreams. The first set also contained an interesting pairing of Crosseyed and Painless > Guelah Papyrus while set two showcased Simple into When the Circus Comes to Town. The next night’s show at Amsterdam’s Paradiso kicked off with the band’s debut of Bob Marley’s Soul Shakedown Party followed by Divided Sky and Wilson. Bathtub Gin > Golgi Apparatus concluded the adventurous set. Set two began with The Squirming Coil, unusual as an opening selection. That led into an exploratory Down with Disease and continued with a jam which segued into what was then known as Daniel, My Brother a/k/a Lucy With a Lumpy Face and later referred to as Carini Had a Lumpy Head or Carini for short. Carini was followed by Taste which returned to Disease. France was the next stop and on February 18th, Phish performed in Paris at Bataclan. The first set there contained old favorites Punch You in the Eye and Slave to the Traffic Light. The old-school theme continued with a second set Peaches en Regalia followed by 2001. Set two on the 18th also featured a rendition of Reba, closing with Harry Hood > Frankenstein. The Bold as Love encore was dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, who Trey explained reminds him of Paris.
On February 20th, the band played in Milan, Italy, where The Curtain and Gumbo were both highlighted and on the 21st, they performed for the first time in Florence (Firenze) Italy. Set I of the Firenze show closed with Lizards, followed by Crosseyed and Painless and finally, the geographically-appropriate You Enjoy Myself. Ya Mar kicked off the second set, and was followed by Run Like an Antelope which segued into a distinctly “heavy metal” version of Wilson that flowed into Oh Kee Pah Ceremony which in turn led to AC/DC Bag. The course of events that changed the title of Lucy With a Lumpy Face also took place during the Firenze show when stage tech Pete Carini was forced to restrict the access of a V.I.P. who “went across the street and called his dad.” From then on, the song was known as Carini and the words were changed to integrate the story. The next show was February 22nd at Teatro Olympico in Rome, and the Italian run continued on the 23rd with a performance in Cortemaggiore, at the Italian analog of San Francisco’s renowned Fillmore Auditorium. The show opened there with Carini, which was initiated on DAT by Paul — the band took the stage after the tape began and started playing along with the recording as the taped version was faded out. The set continued with the tour’s first versions of Axilla, All Things Reconsidered and The Sloth. A soaring Fluffhead and David Bowie rounded out the first set in the tiny Italian town. The second set at Cortemaggiore also began with a surprise as the band opened with Daniel (Saw the Stone), a song they hadn’t performed in more than four years. That set also contained a rare combination of Mike’s Song into Why Don’t We Do It in the Road, during which Trey announced the “return of Henrietta” in response to Fish wearing his trademark dress for the only time during the European tour.
After a much-deserved day off, Phish returned to Germany for the remainder of the month’s shows. On the 25th, they played at a club in Munich called Incognito. A few songs during a bluesy set one featured guest vocalist Sydney Ellis: One Meatball, Red Rooster and Got My Mojo Workin’. Set two featured a combination of Sample in a Jar > Punch You in the Eye > Free. An attempt at My Friend was aborted and the band finished the set with LaGrange. They appeared the next day at SWF3 Studios in Baden-Baden, Germany for a three-song live studio set and interview. That evening at Stuttgart’s Longhorn, the band opened the show with the extremely rare Camel Walk, which was followed by a string of classics including Llama, My Friend (this time played to completion), Harry Hood and Tube. The set closed with Dog Log followed by The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Stuttgart’s second set was equally exciting, containing a very heavy Ha Ha Ha, a version of You Enjoy Myself that segued into Kung and the increasingly infrequent Magilla, played for the first time in nearly three years. Highway to Hell capped a raucous evening that was engineered by the band, in part to tease longtime friend and employee Eric Larson, who was arriving the following night in Europe for “off-duty” shows.
The last show of the month took place on February 28th at Huxley’s Neue Welt in Berlin. European staple Carini kicked off the show. The band teased The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony during the first set Ya Mar. Taste opened the second set and Drowned (which also included teases of Oh Kee Pa) followed; the show concluded with A Day in The Life encore.
The next day in the band’s life would encompass a breakthrough live performance at Hamburg, Germany’s Markthalle – a concert that would later be immortalized in the live offering Slip Stitch and Pass. By the middle of March, Phish would go into the studio to begin the first of several jam sessions to yield material that would be included on their next two records, The Story of the Ghost and The Siket Disc.